If you’re looking to change your small business phone system, you know how important it is for your small business or startup to be able to communicate effectively – both internally and with customers. A phone call can be the most effective bridge between you and your customers. But there are a myriad of options and features to choose from, each with an array of different features and prices. To help you in the process, I’ve taken a closer look at the process of choosing the right phone service provider for both your office, and your remote teams. Landline phones aren’t going anywhere. But they aren’t perfect. The oldest type of business phone system, landline phones, are still widely used today. Sure, they are a time-tested solution. But, having said that, they have many drawbacks; as mobile technology improves and becomes more affordable, companies have shifted the way they work in response. Landlines, or copper wire phone systems, offer limited functionality compared to the modern smartphones and VOIP solutions. While this certainly hinders communication potential, it also makes landlines more reliable and less susceptible to failure. Unfortunately, landline phone service is comparatively expensive.The hardware, infrastructure, and required maintenance lead to exorbitantly high setup costs. If a company is looking to make regular changes to the way their office is setup – for example, if they want to have most of their team work from home and keep the layout of their office space flexible to meet an evolving workforce, the last thing they need is an expensive landline contract with hardware that needs to be reinstalled with every office change. Is a landline phone system ideal for your small business? I reached out to a contact at Global Resources. They specialize in helping small businesses maximize cash-flow, as well as other aspects of their business. When I asked them whether a small business should invest in a landline phone solution, they chuckled. They advised that the only reason a landline phone solution would make sense is if it’s already installed and the business wants to avoid the hassle and expense of upgrading. But, even then, it’s not really a win. The long-term costs associated with a landline phone service contract just doesn’t justify keeping them as your primary communication device – especially considering the alternatives outlined below. Private Branch Exchange (PBX) Phones You should think of Private Branch Exchange (PBX) phone systems as the landline phone’s more functional counterpart. PBX systems come in two forms: on-premises and hosted. On-Premises PBX Phone Systems On-premises PBX systems are an ideal solution for larger companies; all of the phone system’s hardware is stored wherever your business is, as the name implies. PBX systems tout features like call-holding and forwarding, which are unavailable on a landline. This means you’ll pay a higher upfront cost because the servers and other hardware required can be pricey. Maintenance of on-premises systems falls solely on the shoulders of the company. This means ensuring your team is equipped to keep your system running, which can be expensive. Of course, some companies choose to outsource the maintenance of their on-premises PBX phone systems. This can give you the total control you desire, without the need to hire a full or part-time member of your team to manage the technical aspects of your solution. If you don’t need complete control and absolute privacy, the hosted PBX phone option outline below may be a better option. Hosted PBX Unlike on-premises systems, hosted PBX systems consolidate all infrastructure at the service provider’s location, so users simply connect their desk phones via the Internet. Though hosted systems can be easier to implement and use, monthly costs can be higher than those of on-premises systems. It’s important to properly vet the provider of your telephone services. Is this the system for you? If you have the funds for a more expensive system and prefer to have phone hardware to use exclusively for business purposes, you might benefit from investing in a PBX system. Virtual Phone Systems The Virtual Phone System is the third type of business phone. This is the solution modern businesses, both large and small, are quickly adopting. Essentially, virtual phone systems put the functionality of a traditional business phone system in a smartphone app. Most virtual phone systems include: Dedicated Business Phone Number Call Forwarding Call Recording Voicemail with Remote Access Voicemail to Email or Text Easy Call Transfer Between Team Members The primary difference here is that the only hardware you’ll need is the smartphone you probably already own (which brings costs down significantly). Pricing is usually structured as a per-user monthly fee with no initial setup fees and no maintenance costs (since systems are hosted in the cloud). Is this the system for you? If you’re using your personal cell phone as your business phone and would prefer some separation between the two, virtual phone systems are for you. They’re inexpensive, easy to set up, packed with features, and designed to scale with your business. Ready to Upgrade Your Small Business Phone System? I hope the three options outlined above help you to make a decision about your company’s phone system. Small businesses and startups need every advantage available to them. And, while customers love a personal touch, giving out your personal phone number could bring your work a little too close to home. When it comes to communication, there’s more than just phone calls. By combining phone calls and live chat solutions, you can improve your customer experience without taking a hit to your bottom-line. Live chat and phone support means that your customers won’t be stuck in help desk ticket hell. I personally leverage a smartphone app to manage my business phone needs – allowing me to appear to be in the office from virtually anywhere – from the highway to the beach. And the ability to turn off the work line when I need to unplug and recharge is probably my favorite feature. So, which small business phone system will you deploy for your team?